Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pre-Fab Gingerbread Can Be Fabulous!

This Christmas wouldn't be complete without decorating some gingerbread. You can click here to see last year's faux gingerbread house on Foodspiration. Because this year we have a new baby, instead of baking a gingerbread house, we went the pre-fab route. This turned out to be surprisingly easy and rewarding even though I didn't get to bake the gingerbread myself!

This 8 dollar kit from Trader Joe's reminded me of a Tahoe-style cabin with front and back pieces and two roof walls. Thank goodness, I had my crafty cousin, Sara, to help me assemble and decorate this house. She's a great baker and cook- bringing homemade caramels and cookies to Christmas this year!

The kit included powdered sugar and a few candies for decoration. However, we dug into my stash of sprinkles, candy canes and gumdrops to really make this house come to life. We also piped the royal icing. We decided to build the house first and decorate second. This design of the structure was really robust and it felt pretty sturdy as we were "gluing" on candy with royal icing.

And voila! A pre-fab gingerbread house that we think is pretty darn fabulous.

and here's the back... It made a great centerpiece on the dining room table!

We hope you had a Merry Christmas and we wish you a Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Baking: German Stollen Recipe

I first blogged about this family tradition a couple of years ago when we were visiting Minnesota for the holidays, however, this year I baked it for the first time on my own. It's a special bread in my memory in that the family would always have this bread on Christmas morning while we were opening presents.

The Stollen turned out fairly true to my memory . . . the crumb on the drier side (my preference) with bursts of flavor in the raisins, currants, and candied fruits. The glaze gives this yeast-leavened bread a touch of sweetness that is a great counterpart to a cup of black coffee.

My Christmas present to you is passing on the recipe to you and yours to share . . . Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chocolate Egg Nog in Jelly Jar Glasses

I'm not sure why, but there's something about drinking egg nog from jelly jar glasses that just feels like Christmastime.

and it's Trader Joe's chocolate egg nog which is addictingly good.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Will It Be A No-Bake Christmas?

Well, I hope not but a lot has changed since last December- most importantly- we've had a baby! And he's a pretty big deal so I haven't had the free time to bake as much as I want. Most recently, my last baking endeavor was a DISASTER. Don't worry, that post celebrating failure is coming soon. In the meantime, I'd thought I'd share a no-bake recipe link from last year. Click on this No-Bake Peppermint Chocolate Cookie link to see how you can make these gorgeous cookies without even turning on the stove. Note: I saw these cookies in Williams-Sonoma this year- don't buy them because they are so easy to make.

And if all goes well on Thursday, my mom will watch Lil P so I can do a simple baking project. Let's hope I get my baking mojo back.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Polenta Section of the Menu

It's the most wonderful time of the year and the busiest. Needless to say with a three month old, I'm not doing the baking extravanza that I normally do. And in a fun twist of events, we actually took a mini-vacation to the coast (just a drive for us)! It's actually a great time of year to do this because it's the off-season and there are great mid-week deals. So, instead of being up to my ears in powdered sugar, we found ourselves in Graton at Willow Wood Restaurant.

As a recommendation from one of the folks at Lynmar Estates, makers of delicious pinor noir in Sebastopol that we sampled earlier in the day, this restaurant did not let us down. With an entire section of the menu dedicated to polenta, how could I not order it? My mom's family is Italian-American and so polenta is a staple. This plate, the "market plate" combined several of my favorites things into one eclectic and tasty dish. It's definitely one of those plates I wouldn't have thought to create but now that I've had it, it seems like something I could easily make at home.

Let's break it down: starting at the lower left you will spy some lovely sauteed spinach with fried coppa and a soft boiled egg. When I was pregnant, soft boiled eggs fell into the "avoid" category so this was a welcome back delicacy that I was happy to once again enjoy. Moving clockwise, you'll see one of the three slices of cambozola toast- where gorgonzola meets a triple cream cheese. Yum! Then of course, the creamy polenta with a roasted tomato. Yum. yum. yum. It was really quite good. Almost worthy of a Julie Andrews-esque song: (to the tune of My Favorite Things) "green sauteed spinach and crispy fried coppa, creamy polenta and roasted tomato, surrounded by toasts topped with stinky, soft cheese- these are a few of my favorite things..."

More foodspiration to come, I promise...also, we heard that the crab season in Bodega Bay is fabulous this year...hmm, perhaps crab on Christmas Eve at our house!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thanksgiving Recap: Wedge Salads, Sweet Potatoes with Meringue, and BGE Turkey

We hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We hosted again this year but had a lot of help from our guests who brought great food. I love setting a formal table and using our wedding china.

This year, I also polished up a set of "silverware" that belonged to my Nonnie and was given to me by my aunt. I only have enough for eight settings- which is exactly the number of people that we had. I always treasure using things that have been in our family for years on these holiday occasions.

We tried a few new things this year including this wedge salad. Inspired by the book, Good Stuff, by Spike from Top Chef, this wedge salad included cucumbers, tomatoes, kalamata olives, sesame seeds and a champagne vinagrette dressing. I am not usually a fan of the traditional wedge salad, but this cookbook has delicious recipes for new interpretations of this classic salad as well as burgers and shakes. I can't wait to make more recipes from this book (we already tried the pumpkin milkshake- just haven't posted yet). The salad was refreshing and looked lovely on our plates. I love a plated salad! Thanks, mom, for making it!

My aunt brought these sweet potatoes but instead of marshmallows, we whipped up some fresh meringue and piped it on top. A few minutes in the broiler and...

The meringue was beautifully browned. It was a light and sweet way to top the sweet potatoes - not to mention that it looked lovely.

And finally, the most important part...the turkey! Justin used the Big Green Egg (BGE) and the turkey turned out great! Wish I had some photos but we were too busy taking care of our little guy and pulling the dinner together. You'll have to check out our past posts for more in depth details.

Did you try any new recipes this year? We'd love to hear about them.